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30/05/2006

Magazine Roundup

Heti Vilaggazdasag | Outlook India | Merkur | Le Nouvel Observateur | Il Foglio | The Economist | Elet es Irodalom | Die Weltwoche | Blueprint Magazine


Heti Vilaggazdasag, 25.05.2006
(Hungary)


The Hungarian Academy of Sciences is under critical fire. Old men are flaunting undeserved privileges and are refusing to hand over the helm to the country's younger real scientific elite. Literary academic György C. Kalman sides with the criticism. "There are subtle methods, for example labels like 'emeritus' or 'honorary member' to ease burnt out, no-longer effective or plain lazy scientists from important positions. But there are also members of the Academy who were never any good because they joined for political reasons. The Academy missed the opportunity to settle accounts with them in 1989. At that time it was more important that nobody felt persecuted. And now fifteen years have passed with no resignations. It is high time to start reconsidering the fate of the Academy members."

Almost all the bishops of the Reformed Church were secret police informers, writes the newspaper Mozgo Vilag. The article is unfortunately not online, but it did launch a debate. The publicist Norbert Izsak is surprised that the Church is still "unsure about how to judge the former secret police informers among its ranks: Should they be honoured or condemned for the compromises they made? ... And church-goers are at a loss as to what constitutes acceptable behaviour in the days before 1989. For some of them, the bishops of the time are heroes, because they had brilliant ecclesiastical careers which involved 'putting up with a lot'. Others accuse them of having made unprincipled compromises."


Outlook India, 05.06.2006 (India)

R. K. Mishra documents the case of the actor Aamir Khan, whose latest film "Fanaa" the local official of North-West Indian Gujarat as well as film distributors and cinema owners are refusing to screen, after the actor expressed criticism of the Bharatiya Janata Party. In an interview Khan seemed unperturbed: "I had said that people killed in Godhra and its aftermath were not Hindus or Muslims for me. They were Indians, and whoever was responsible for the carnage was anti-Indian and anti-national. If that was the reason for this (ban), so be it.... The issue here is of the concept of democracy. If the people of Gujarat are annoyed with me, they have the choice not to go to the theatre, not to see my film, not to support me. But it's wrong for any organisation to use its might to force them into it."


Merkur, 01.06.2006 (Germany)

The philosopher Christoph Türcke defends blasphemy against its angry critics, even if he himself sees the Muhammad cartoons as a victorious western sneer "more imperial than subversive". "There is no doubt blasphemy is not on a par with enlightenment. But enlightenment sometimes looks like the spitting image of blasphemy. Ridicule bores, when it touches the black, deeper than any other form of criticism. Where lengthy processes of presenting proof often fail, sometimes a single joke, a satire, a cartoon can expose the vanity, the pomposity, the arrogance of ruling authorities. Ridicule is cynical, where it makes the sad risible. It is elucidating wherever it instantly brings out what is risible, distorting if necessary to the point of recognition. Criticism without ridicule is toothless, cannot get a proper hold, is not meant earnestly. Which is why religious criticism in the spirit of enlightenment could do nothing else, if it was serious in its intent, than every now and then to insult the religious authorities and the feelings they foster. Sporadic ridicule is part of the impetus of the attack."


Le Nouvel Observateur, 29.05.2006 (France)

To mark the publication of a new book by essayist Stephane Zagdanski ("De l'antisemitisme", Climats), the Nouvel Obs publishes a discussion between the author and lawyer Theo Klein, a leading member of the Jewish resistance during World War II. For Zagdanski, anti-Semitism is common to all epochs and civilisations: "Take a very recent example, the murder of the young Jew Ilan Halimi in Paris by a suburban gang. Their motive was that Jews allegedly have a lot of money, and always stick together. For me there's not the slightest difference between that and the statement in Marx's book "On the Jewish Question," that money is the jealous god of the Jews. Even if the murderer Youssouf Fofana never read Marx, he has the same deluded reasoning under the surface." Klein answers by recommending calm self-assurance. "For me, a Jew who defines himself purely in terms of the Shoah, which he didn't experience, and Israel, where he doesn't live, fails to grasp the essence of the Jewish identity. And it's these people who are the most sensitive. If Jewishness is truly something spiritual for someone, then he won't get all worked up at every anti-Semitic idiocy."


Il Foglio, 27.05.2006 (Italy)

Amy Rosenthal has met ninety-year-old Orientalist Bernhard Lewis, who sets things straight on what should have been done in Iraq: "The very first thing should have been to build up an Iraqi authority capable of assuming power. The invasion of Iraq wouldn't have been necessary at all. In the 90s there was the so-called 'Free Zone' in the north. Around one fifth of the country, and the population, no longer belonged to Saddam Hussein, but were controlled by Kurdish leaders and the national congress. Something could have been done then, but nothing happened, and a fantastic opportunity was wasted. After the invasion, this resistance completely collapsed."

Marie Antoinette was the victim of a media campaign, writes Siegmund Ginzberg. It all started with jealous court gossip which "spawned increasing numbers of pamphlets and caricatures". The fact that the young king had been unable to consummate his marriage for seven years became the source of speculation and vituperation. Wild rumours proliferated on all kinds of intimate details. If the husband has a problem, it's only logical that the young and brilliant wife should look around for sexual alternatives. It was imputed she had whole cohorts of lovers, both male and female. People said her children, the designated heirs to the throne, must have been fathered by someone else (the chief suspect being Louis XVIth's younger brother)." Public antipathy reached its peak right after her beheading, writes Ginzberg, when a revolutionary pamphlet wrote: "The tart Marie Antoinette got the death she deserved, like a sow in the slaughterhouse."


The Economist, 26.05.2006 (UK)

A year after the French and Dutch rejected the European constitution, The Economist doubts that another year's reflection would make any sense, suggesting: "One sensible thing that next month's summit could do is to agree to forget the present text. That would enable the summiteers to move on to the more fundamental questions that the constitution was supposed, but failed, to answer: how to restore the EU's purpose (and, just as desirable, its popularity), and what institutional changes this might require."


Elet es Irodalom, 26.05.2006
(Hungary)


Imre Kertesz
celebrates a major series of contemporary music concerts in Budapest, which has opened with works by Hungarian composer György Ligeti: "For a long time, this name was just a word for me, shining through the darkness of public interdictions. György Ligeti: the unattainable source of wonderful, secretive tones. For decades his music was banned from concert halls, music schools and radio programmes in Hungary. Posterity will certainly ask how this country could have been so wasteful with its talent." The concert series is the first major project initiated by the New Hungarian Music Association (UMZE), established in 2005 by György Kurtag, Peter Eötvös, Andras Szöllösy and others with the aim of making contemporary Hungarian music better known in Hungary.

Peter Esterhazy's overwhelming enthusiasm for football certainly helped the Hungarian literary football team in their match against Germany last weekend in Berlin. The final result was 0:0, but the Hungarians ran circles around the Germans, writes author Laszlo Darvasi, who was himself on the team. "In the second half the Germans could hardly get possession, let alone score a goal, while our team blew one heart-rending chance after the next. We can name several witnesses, all of whom are ready to state that our team really did play better than the German writers, who were on average a good ten years younger." The Hungarian literary football team, by contrast, was composed of men "with vile, obstinate spare tires about their hips, dismal fillings in their teeth and deep wrinkles: the authors of lamenting novels, snivelling features and other sad fiascos."


Die Weltwoche, 25.05.2006 (Switzerland)

Christof Moser travels to Entropia, a virtual universe with 300,000 participants and annual sales figures of a very real 165 million dollars. In a gallery in New Oxford, he meeds the filmmaker Jon Jacobs, who goes by the name Neverdie here, and has just opened a nightclub on an asteroid for 100,000 dollars. "There are about one hundred guests here from all over the world, the opening is well-attended. The art, mostly abstract works of the kind Americans like best, can be bought as virtual objects for between 1,000 and 5,000 PED, but they can also be ordered as real works. As I sit down and start up a discussion over the internal chat system with an artist from Budapest, for whom Entropia is now the most important sales channel, Neverdie promptly buys 40,000 PED (4,000 real dollars) worth of virtual pixel art, which he wants to hang in the VIP lounge of his club. Jacobs sees it as an investment. Like the other virtual objects, pictures can also be traded on the commodity exchange. If the demand for an artist goes up, it pays off to be among his first virtual collectors."


Blueprint Magazine, 17.05, 2006 (USA)

Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of Jyllands-Posten, the Danish daily which published the Muhammed cartoons last September, defends his decision as a stance against what he calls "the politics of victimology", a rhetoric concocted by the European left which he says has been cleverly exploited by Islamic radicals. "Equal treatment is the democratic way to overcome traditional barriers of blood and soil for newcomers. To me, that means treating immigrants just as I would any other Danes. And that's what I felt I was doing in publishing the 12 cartoons of Muhammad last year. Those images in no way exceeded the bounds of taste, satire, and humour to which I would subject any other Dane, whether the queen, the head of the Church, or the prime minister. By treating a Muslim figure the same way I would a Christian or Jewish icon, I was sending an important message: You are not strangers, you are here to stay, and we accept you as an integrated part of our life. And we will satirize you, too. It was an act of inclusion, not exclusion; an act of respect and recognition."
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